Many times in my life, in myself and others, I have seen how inaccurate, incomplete, often negative views can be reinforced by brooding or brainwashing — by a person going into some kind of echo chamber (in their head, on the Internet, only spending time with similar people in the real world, etc.) for a long time and repeating certain thoughts or feelings over and over until they become more and more extreme. The same was apparently true in the Buddha’s time, about 2,600 years ago: “‘He insulted me, he hit me, he beat me, he robbed me’ — anger will never cease in those who dwell on such thoughts” (Dhammapada, 3).
But real people are small and complicated. Everyone finds themselves born into a certain body, family, country, etc., which can be hard to escape. Everyone has had many unique past experiences that informed them. No one can see or learn everything. The only way to understand the complexity of life or people is to get out of your comfort zone (either mentally or physically) and have strange, new, different experiences. Brooding or brainwashing in isolation usually only makes one’s views more xenophobic, unrealistic, inaccurate, and incomplete; having difficult, new conversations and experiences usually makes one’s views more connected, realistic, accurate, and complete.
Here is a nice Ted talk, which says pretty much the same thing:
Neuroscience’s steady movement towards early Buddhist-like views is interesting to watch, though the argument for nihilism in this video still seems anecdotal and atheism-dogmatic to me:
There are many activities where people seem to fetishize (meaning an object of obsession, whether sexual or not) robots. For example: synchronized performances of many kinds (the military, sports, marching bands and drum corps, synchronized dancing, etc.); computer-generated music that no human musician could ever play; weapons that no human could ever resist; make-up to make the body look more like plastic or porceline; people value precise manual labor and cheap prices so much as to be willing to replace human factory workers with machines; increasingly elaborate sex toys; checking human behavior with endless sensors and cameras; etc. People seem to be in a great hurry to replace humanity with machines.
Worldliness and cold-heartedness, insisting that every ridiculously small and ephemeral material detail of life be beautiful and perfectly controlled, give me OCD.
“…since Freud, the most extravagant fancies in the realm of love are considered to be perfectly normal (a person without them is regarded as a case for treatment), in the realm of death (the other great pole of human life) any strange fancies are still classed as ‘morbid’. The Suttas reverse the situation: sensual thoughts are the thoughts of a sick man (sick with ignorance and craving), and the way to health is through thoughts of foulness and the diseases of the body, and of its death and decomposition” (Ñāṇavīra Thera, “Clearing the Path”).
People don’t really want the world to change; the world changes on its own incessantly, which is the cause of most/all suffering in the world (i.e., whatever one builds or gets attached-to in this world is inevitably destroyed). People want to change *how* the natural, psychological, and social worlds work. For example, the human body and mind are frail, susceptible to disease, and short-lived, so people want to find ways of overcoming those problems. Walking, running, or using carts are too slow/weak and painful, so people invent transportation technologies. Crop yields are too low, so people do genetic and other agricultural engineering. Certain social structures/regimes that are currently in power are destroying the natural environment, causing wars, or allowing prejudiced or unequal treatment of people, so people want to change those regimes. And so forth. Humans rarely want to live in their natural state.
From all of the dark, militaristic, morbid, violent, depressed, anxious, etc. things I’ve seen in life, there is a feeling and mental image that I associate with their extreme — the lowest hell, if you wish. It isn’t the usual fire-and-brimstone or sadistic concepts of hell, which seem too active and not yet at a self-destructive conclusion to me. Imagine a desolate wasteland, similar to the landscapes of Mars or Venus, covered in light brown or reddish sand and stones, but there is no water and no plants will grow. The sky is brown, pale red, or black, like there might be a sun up there somewhere, but it is always hazy, overcast, or not visible. There is an appeal to this place, like it is a relatively relaxing or accepting common denominator for anger and struggle. Everything one could fight against has been destroyed there, sometimes there is stillness/rest, and anything new that arrives there must be destroyed and become like the stones. There is a dull or slowly grinding pain that never fully goes away, like a sinus headache.
What I learn from this feeling and image is that this is where one’s mind ends up, if one always dwells in, embraces, enjoys, relishes, etc. struggle and conflict. It’s not a good place, and suffering doesn’t end there. Please don’t go there.
As I lay me down to sleep, I to myself often think: “Brain/mind, don’t you ever get tired of all these constructions? Enough already.”